Art Whore

Culture Talk – Doug aka ‘Dougo’ aka ‘Iron Fist Doug’ of the Cave Clan

Draining aka The-Art-of-Exploring-Stormwater-Drains is a unique Australian past time – made possible due to the fact that unlike most countries in the world, Australia separates its fresh-water drains from its sewerage. This means the adventurous can explore the drains of Australia without worrying about walking through the usual human excrement found in most drains. You may instead, however, have to contend with eels, spiders, birds, bats and the occasional drain-dwelling vagrant.

Whilst humans have been exploring the drains of Australia ever since they were first created, there is one group that turned an erstwhile hobby into a vibrant culture – that group is the Cave Clan. Founded on January 26th 1986 by three young gentlemen by the names of Dougo, Sloth and Woody.

Soon after their founding, The Cave Clan promptly began activities that would come to define the group, win it many fans, media exposure, and the occasional blood enemy. Activities such as holding drain based concerts and parties, hosting large multi-people exploring sessions, spreading their pro-drain exploring propaganda around public places, tricking the Australian media into covering a fake story about gangs of deviant-social-security-receiving-drain-dwelling-menaces, publishing zines, creating art, and engaging in general larrikinism.

Whilst Sloth and Woody have stayed virtually anonymous – ole Dougo quickly positioned himself as a major scene builder and spokesman for the Cave Clan, a position he still holds today; even if he has stepped back a bit lately due to family commitments.

Listing his pivotal life moments, Dougo mentions a childhood filled with dream-time escapes to dark subterranean hidden worlds, the death of his father when Doug was only 7, and the relaxed attitude of his mother when it came to Doug’s childhood exploring.

Commenting on the beginnings of the Cave Clan, Dougo states:

Google will tell you that the Cave Clan was started on Australia Day, 1986 although co-founder Woody was a socialist so we called it Invasion Day. I had been trying to start a group that explores mines, caves and drains for a couple of years with no luck.

It wasn’t until I’d finished school and I decided to catch up with Woody. ‘Want to go up the darkies?’ I asked, referring to the small pipe that ran under Northcote Tech.

Woody got his torch and a marker AND his brother Sloth. ‘This is my brother Sloth’ and off we went.

The idea of the Clan was always to form a social circle of people that had one main thing in common – exploring the underground. I had always thought that with more members we would also gain local knowledge (hey, there was no Google in 1986).

(Some recent Cave Clan propaganda below)

With Dougo having stepped back from front-line service in the Cave Clan, but importantly still actively exploring and creating – now is the perfect time to get to know the history of the Cave Clan, and gain some insights into one of the men behind the most unique Australian sub-cultures ever, by reading the Culture Talk below…

Preface by Dougo

Before I get into it I’d just like to point out a few things:
If you are in the Cave Clan and you are offended by this interview then I apologise. What you see as me airing dirty Clan linen is just me being honest. I’m not into lying – my memory just isn’t up to it. I’m not out to ruin the Cave Clan. The negatives I mention are definitely out weighed by the positives in the group. I have a lot of time for nearly all of you so I’m always happy to chat (preferably about positive stuff). To be honest I could count the number of Cave Clan members that I believe sabotaged the group on one hand.
The rest of you are sick cunts.
I only just got back on to the SydClan’s online platform and I’m pretty sure my mate will be PMing people asking that I be banned for consorting with the enemy. If that happens then so be it, but keep in mind that I won’t be fighting for the group anymore so my only posts will be mostly old stuff that I find that relates to SydClan and no political posts.
I didn’t want to add emojis to my responses, but if I were to add them there would be about forty ” (: ” so please keep that in mind.
Most of my answers are in relation to the Cave Clan.
I kind of realised halfway through that I messed the interview up to some extent. Oops.
Finally (and obviously) my replies are just my opinion.

(Some photos below of Dougo with the other founding fathers of the Cave Clan – Sloth and Woody.)

Basics/Getting to Know

Name + D.O.B?

Doug, Dougo, IronFistDoug, Morkal Dungoy or just plain old Mick.
Just turned 50. Sept 11 (yes, no one even mentioned my birthday in 2001).

City, State n Country you currently call home?

I’ve been a Gippslander for the last 12 or so years.

City, State n Country you’re from?

Originally from Melbourne, Australia.

(A series of photos by Dougo showing a common draining issue – slippage)

Describe a memory from some stages of your life ….basically trying to piece together pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, comics, politics, crime… ANYTHING really!

* age 5 – beginnings:

As an infant I used to have a reoccurring dream that I was sliding out of control through a concrete drain pipe. The weird thing was I had no idea what a drain was. These dreams were accompanied by a sick feeling that carried on even once I was awake.
In hindsight I think I was suffering migraines which are unusual at that age, but when I started getting them as a teenager, I had the same post-migraine sick feeling.
I kind of believe that these nightmarish dreams subconsciously put the idea of exploring tunnels into my head.

* age 10 – continuations:

My father drowned when I was 7. Although my mother was a great provider, she was happy to see me ride off on my bike at 8am provided I was home in time for dinner by 6. It was this freedom that lead to me exploring the local creeks and rivers.
If my father had not have died so early, there would not have been a Cave Clan and I guess the urbex scene in Australia would have started a decade or so later.

* age 15 – getting serious:

I was obsessed with getting into tunnels. I loved the idea of being in tunnels.
In primary school my friend Paul and I talked about buying land at St Kilda beach and building Tunnel World. In grade 6 the PE teacher stopped me from climbing into a drain via a manhole outside of our school.
I also tried getting into the drain by randomly choosing a spot under a school portable and starting to dig. I think I got down about 8 centimeters before my wooden twigs snapped.
On my first day of secondary school I went up Northcote Tech Darkies for the first of many explores.
I left home at 15 and lived with a couple of my brothers for a few years. This gave me much more freedom to work on getting a group of drain explorers together.

* age 20 – young adult:

By now we’d been through the shit formulative years of the Cave Clan. It was still shit, however we were starting to get new members and the group was spreading.
Up until now I’d say that 90% of my friends were non-urbex. Friends I knew from school, footy, cricket or just local friends. By the age of 25 I would say it was 50/50 then 70% were urbex friends by the time I was 30.
That has now leveled out, but some of my best friends are people I’d met through the Cave Clan.

* age 25 – adult mode:

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t a mature adult by 25.
I was now living with just Cave Clan people at the MSGC (Main St Gentlemen’s Club) in Northcote which was basically a Cave Clan halfway house.
About a dozen Clan people lived there over a ten year period, but hundreds stayed over either drunk or while visiting from interstate (or both).
These are generally considered the golden years of the Cave Clan. They were great times.

(Some photos below of the Main St Gentlemen’s Club)

* age 30 – fully formed:

See age 25. Pretty much the same.
The Cave Clan continued to grow as did the scene on a worldwide scale. That meant more great people to explore with.
Sadly it also meant more of the foolish ones.

* age 35 – meanderings:

Up until now for almost 20 years I had pretty much dedicated all of my free time to the Cave Clan. This was starting to change as I was soon to meet my future wife who we’ll refer to as Yoko.
The terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon changed things forever, even here in Australia.
Things were way more chilled out prior to September 11.

* age 40 – middle age creeping:

I think I became an adult when I turned 40. In that year alone we purchased a house, got married and had our first child: the future ruler of the Cave Clan, The Pink Fist!
I moved away from the big smoke of Melbourne and my involvement in the Clan was cut way back to just major events such as The Clannies, The Cave Clan Short Film Festival and the occasional political shit fight.

(A photo below of Dougo’s eldest of two children, and future Supreme Ruler of the Cave Clan – The Pink Fist)

* age 45 – adult meanderings:

Meh, once you reach 40 and you’re looking after kids, time becomes a blur.
I still manage to explore something half decent every month or so and at least look at something every week or two.

* age 50 – middle age freaking:

Pretty much the same as 45. Even more grey hairs. Everything aches a bit more.
For the last 5 years I’ve been doing these 25km Beer Walks along canals and drains throughout Victoria with some old school Cave Clan guys. It’s a great way to catch up and stay in touch while having the time to talk some shit.

(A recent photo of Dougo below)

Personal motto?

“You do, you are!”

Drain and Exploring Questions

When and why did you first start exploring?

As I mentioned, there was always something inside me. I’m sure Freud would have a ball with me, but I was dreaming of drains before I even knew what they were.
From an early age I wanted to start a group that explores drains. The River Jumpers was my first attempt. That name seriously kicks arse over Cave Clan. If I could have my time again we’d definitely be the River Jumpers.

(Some early River Jumpers art by Dougo below)

Any pivotal exploring moment(s) / influence(s)?

I have never been very good at talking myself up. I feel stupid talking up drain exploring.
For example when Tim Stone did the Cave Clan ABC Arts documentary he had to record hours upon hours of interviews to get what he did. I really struggle with it.
So having said that, I didn’t really have any influences. There was no scene when I started. I didn’t think there was such a thing as a drain gang (there was, The Drainiacs from the 1960’s).
I’m not trying to say I was a trendsetter or that I was anything special. I was obsessed with starting a group that explored drains, which was pretty fucking hard when you consider no one was exploring drains and as far as I knew there were only a handful of drains around anyway (yeah, I was a n00b).
I never wanted to be the greatest urban explorer in the world. I never dangle my feet off the tallest structures in the city, I don’t use tripods or artificially light up photos… I just wanted to bring people together that liked doing the same shit as me.
Cofounder Woody was an International Socialist and he is probably not aware how much of his beliefs rubbed off on to me. I was not a radical like Woody, but I am definitely a bit of a commo.
I was into cheesy 80’s music whereas Mira was into alternative stuff. He did some late might DJing on 3PBS and was a huge fan of 3RRR. He influenced the weirder taste in music. I’m not sure if I ever told him how grateful I am for that.
Wes influenced me to always push harder when out drinking.

Worst aspects of urban exploring and why?

I hated when the tunnel ended up getting lower and you’d go so far up it that you couldn’t be bothered turning around so you just kept going until you were crawling searching for a manhole.
Sometimes the manhole never comes. I’ve had to worm my way out in reverse through a tiny pipe for half an hour. It totally sucks.
I don’t hate the effort you put into finding locations to explore even though a lot of times you find nothing.
I don’t even hate the encounters with security and the authorities. It’s all part of it.
I’m not against the people that explore nowadays, however a negative aspect nowadays is that there is just too many people doing it. An awesome topside location that would have lasted a few years would be lucky to last a few months in these “I don’t care as long as I get my photo” times.
When the Cave Clan was in its prime we didn’t have the internet so we used the media and stickers to gain new members so they came in dribs and drabs. Now days there is a flood of keen urban explorers and many of them are only just in their teens.

(Photo below of Dougie in a tight drain)

Best aspects of urban exploring and why?

For me it’s the social aspect.
I could spew out all the clichés such as, “To go places were few others do”, “You never know what’s around the next bend” or “to document our decaying history” but yeah, for me it’s to see cool places with a few friends while having a beer or shooting a video basically ridiculing our hobby.

Thoughts on the current status of the Australian urban-exploring / draining scene man?

The scene in general… it kind of reminds me of an apple that has been eaten to the core, but people are still trying to get more off the apple. I could probably say a lot more that would just turn people in the scene against me (maybe later), but that is never my goal.
The Cave Clan scene is continuing on.
I guess in a nutshell the Cave Clan was something special. For 25 or so years we had something unique. The scene within and beyond the (Melbourne) Clan were once very different things.
Now with the wave of the new explorers over the last 5 or so years it’s really hard to tell a Cave Clan member and a general explorer apart. It’s fine for current explorers as they are into it for the splore and that’s all the they are interested in – fair enough too, however the Cave Clan was set up to be something different and most of that work was shot down because members who wanted the Cave Clan to be a more serious extreme group of urbexers persisted until most of the traditional members just gave up and left or do things together outside of the core group. I’m mainly referring to Melbourne.
Sydney went the more serious route almost instantly when they started back in the 90’s and SydClan is ruled by an iron fist (or two or three) that manipulate things behind the scenes.
From an urbex perspective the best thing to come out of the changes is that all branches of the Cave Clan are a lot more alike and very similar to the general scene outside of the Clan. I will always see what those members did as being rude. I guess it would be like a group of people joining The Hell’s Angels and deciding that the group should ride Suzukis and pushing their agenda until they got what they wanted.
The history of the group really means little to most members nowadays.
They killed what the (Melbourne) Clan was, but it lives on and just about all members are good people.

… and what about internationally?

It is great to see urbexing invade countries such as Russia and the like, but I’m not really into the internationals scene anymore. I struggle to do my explores let alone spend time couch-surfing around the world.
I do chat to people from around the world (I will generally chat with anyone) and I have made some good friends. From what I can see urbexing is huge around the world and seems to be going well, but they mostly have the same issues as us (or probably will).

Have you ever been in trouble with the law and / or authorities as a result of your exploring? And if so – please share with us some tales!

I have had many encounters with the police over the years, but most of them were relatively small encounters such as…
One year we were setting up for a party and to save having to carry everything up the tunnel we were handing stuff through a small side pipe. I was in the tunnel and Wes was outside getting ready to hand me bottles of champagne, boxes of chocolate and party streamers.
Just as he knelt over to start passing down the goodies I heard a vehicle pull up behind him. All I could see of the vehicle was a blue light. I was out of site and I said to Wes “Cops”. My whole body was already in the drain with only my head sticking out. I stood up in the drain and stood against the wall next to the opening. I could hear them talking to Wes. Then I heard the divvy doors open and shut. I could actually hear them roughing him up. Then I heard doors opening. I was hoping they would let him go. Then suddenly I had this copper’s big ugly head come through the hole about 20 centimetres away from me. I could see his pupils dilute! Luckily he didn’t have his night vision and he blocked most of the light getting in with his huge head. He started calling out to me. I tiptoed along the wall away from the cop and then once I was in complete darkness I took off up the tunnel.
After awhile I got to a junction. I wet the soles of my shoes and walked up the left tunnel for about 50 meters leaving footprints until my shoes dried then I walked back to the junction and carefully went up the right tunnel making sure to leave no footprints. I learnt that maneuver from the little kid in the snow at the end of The Shining.
In the end nothing happened. We had to go to the police station if we wanted to get our stuff back. We didn’t.
Another time a group of Cave Clanners were heading up a drain under the Melbourne CBD on a Friday night. Wes and I had come straight from work so we weren’t dressed for it so we decided to walk along the top of the drain following the group dropping lit sparklers down manholes (hey, we were party animals). Towards the end it started raining. It started getting a bit heavy and it was hard to find a way out of this drain so I got down on my knees in the middle of the road and started calling down the manhole “It’s raining!” This manhole was at a set of traffic lights so as I’m screaming out a taxi pulls up beside me and looks at me as if I was a lunatic. Rightfully so I guess.
We arranged to open a manhole for them a bit further up. We found one and waited for them to gather. “OK, let’s do it”. I had lifted the manhole about a centimetre when a cop car cruised right by. I lifted the manhole off anyway. The cop car turned around and the dozen explorers started climbing out. The cop came up to me and said, “What the fuck are you doing fucking around in the drains?” I just shrugged my shoulders and explained that we were just walking by and we saw someone was trying to get the manhole off so we helped them. The cop said that we could “fuck off” so we walked into the nearby pub and ordered a beer. Slowly about a minute apart everyone from the group started walking into the pub with huge smiles on their faces. Once the cops realised they weren’t shit heads they started asking the usual, “What’s down there?” and “You’d never get me down there”.
Once we went to do the abandoned power station on Spencer Street and we found a security car in the driveway. It was a hatch back so showing off I said, “I’ll set off the car’s alarm”. I put my arse on the back window and started bouncing the car. Suddenly the back window shattered and I fell into the back of the car with my feet in the air. I jumped out and we all took off down the street and into a pub. I went to buy a beer and as I put my hand in my pocket to get my money out for the barman, I pulled out a handful of change mixed up with broken glass. “What have you been up to?” he asked.
There are dozens of stories involving police and security and some involving the highest level of law enforcement, but generally it goes nowhere.
Here’s a tip. If you get caught exploring an abandoned building and I mean ONLY EXPLORING it and they actually charge you and you end up in court, many judges will pay out on the police for wasting the court’s time. I’ve never been charged, however I have heard this from a few people. If you were unlucky you might get a good behavior bond and throw some dollars in the poor box.

How has the world of exploring changed since September 11 and the rise of global terrorism?

It was like a switch being flicked. Explorers around the world pretty much just stopped for a few months.
Three branches of the Cave Clan had someone, probably ASIO, question them. It wasn’t a bad thing, if being questioned by the feds could be seen as anything but bad. They weren’t talking about shutting us down at all. They wanted us to be their subterranean eyes and also to let them know how we got into places. In the end there was no need to report anyone or give away any secrets. Counter Terrorism went through the roof (pardon the pun). Australian had the Be Alert Not Alarmed campaign which basically asked civilians to report people hanging around in strange places and taking photos of bridges, trains tunnels and infrastructure in general – in other words: us!
The scene has never been as chilled as it was, but over time it has gotten a bit more relaxed… but not yet rad or fully sick.

What sort of uninhabited urban area usually spikes your interest and why?

Just about anything underground – for obvious reasons.
Above ground… Prisons, hospitals, power stations, schools and the like… because they have history I guess, but also because they are hardly ever the same.

Any general exploring tales you would like to note down here for posterity man – tales of humor, danger, even erotic thrills?

Hmmm… I could honestly spend a week responding to this.
There are so many I wouldn’t know where to start right now (wait for the book).

Thoughts on the ever prolific Australian explorer and vandal ‘Tubby 1’?

He’s pretty much after my time. Other than a few ill-informed Instagram messages I don’t know the guy at all.
I don’t mind graffiti in drains, nor do I care about people getting up, but he did come across as a bit of a dick with his competitive nature and painting in places where many other explorers or people in general would rather he didn’t.
He’s made a negative comment or two to me, but I just wasn’t interested so I just blocked him.
But… (yes, there is a but) parts of the Cave Clan helped to create the negative graffiti environment that we have now. I have spoken to quite a lot of graffiti-urbexers over the years and the ones that don’t give a fuck about urbex rules and regulations are quite often rebelling at being (in their words) bullied by faceless Cave Clan members online into not doing graffiti “in our tunnels/spaces”.
The Cave Clan, and probably this scene in general, attracts a high percentage of social misfits. This is fine and most of them are quite happy to be just your everyday member, but when you get a group of social misfits together that start doing things on behalf of the Cave Clan, it tends to lead to shit and very rarely does it help the Clan or the scene.
The same goes with trying to force people to remove photos that are in the public eye. I’ve spoken to people who have had demands to remove their photos screamed at them once again by faceless people on the internet rather than explaining the situation and asking if they could maybe remove the photo or change the description. I have done the latter about a dozen times and have always had a reasonable response.
So how do I feel about Tubby? I don’t think many people head out there with the intention of being hated, so he probably regrets some of it, maybe.
Being obsessed with ‘Getting Up’ can see logic go out the window. There’s so much graffiti in drains now I don’t even think about it. It’s always sad to see brickworks and features fucked up, but anyone in the Cave Clan that thinks graffitists owe us, or the locations we explore, any respect is living in a dream. The Cave Clan’s counter-graffiti measures slowed things down for quite awhile, but it’s like most of the rules we put in place over the years, it would be unrealistic to think they would work forever especially with the scene growing exponentially.

(Some draining art and graffiti photographed by Dougo, below)

What to you is the difference between “UrbEx” and “draining”?

The question probably should be What’s the difference between drain exploring in Australia and the rest of the world?
Drain explorers have more fun don’t they? We let our hair down.
Where as being in an abandoned building leads to creeping, whispering and silence, being in a drain leads to chatting, slipping and laughter.
I think the mucking about is quite unique to Australia. I’m sure there are pockets around the world that like to have a laugh (I’m looking at you Twin Cities!), and as much as I may have harped on the negative changes going on in the Clan, it’s not just a generational thing – I had been involved in the Clan for thirty years and the generational gap was pretty huge then. I think more and more drainers want to be taken more seriously than we once did, but they’ll always be considered second-class to the topside urban explorers.
I think people that explore abandoned farm houses or petrol stations are generally rated higher than a drain explorer.
Fuck ‘em! 😉

(A UrbEx Vs. Cave Clan meme posted by Dougo below)

Whilst we know you through your exploring, and work with both the ‘Cave Clan’ and ‘Il Draino’ magazine – care to share with those at home the details of your other creative endeavors… if any?!

Currently most of my creative endeavors evolve around annoying my wife and kids.
I do so many things that I tend, due to time restraints, not to be overly technical.
I love shooting and making videos, but tripods take too long as does setting up decent lighting. Generally I’ll shoot a video one day and edit and post it that night. The same with my photography.
I totally understand the concept of taking a good photo, however there are already hundreds of great photographers out there in the urbex-world, so I’m quite happy taking my happy snaps of people engaging in exploring.
I really enjoy making zines… the old fashion paper way. I was thinking by now that I would have more free time, but my second child has Autism so she takes up way more time that I thought she would have by this stage.
The main problem is that I enjoy being with my family too much (considering just before I turned 40 I had no intention of having kids) and when I find some spare time I generally think ‘what can I do with the kids’ rather than ‘I should work on one of my ongoing projects’.

‘Cave Clan’ Questions

For those reading at home who may be unaware – please explain the who, what and why of the ‘Cave Clan’?

Google will tell you that the Cave Clan was started on Australia Day, 1986 although co-founder Woody was a socialist so we called it Invasion Day. I had been trying to start a group that explores mines, caves and drains for a couple of years with no luck. It wasn’t until I’d finished school and I decided to catch up with Woody. ‘Want to go up the darkies?’ I asked, referring to the small pipe that ran under Northcote Tech.
Woody got his torch and a marker AND his brother Sloth. ‘This is my brother Sloth’ and off we went.
The idea of the Clan was always to form a social circle of people that had one main thing in common – exploring the underground. I had always thought that with more members we would also gain local knowledge (hey, there was no Google in 1986).
Woody stayed active for a few years then started moving around the country for work.
Sloth was never a mad keen explorer but he’s stayed involved in the group in some capacity for the whole time, even if it was just to pop up once a year at a reunion or some other function.

What is your current role within the ‘Cave Clan’?

Old fart that members secretly come to asking for advice about issues they are having in the group.
Considering that I have almost nothing to do with the group other than working on some printed material and arranging the odd old school gathering, I get so many people coming to me about problems they are having in the group. There have even been times recently where I have had people from both sides of a problem come to me not knowing the other had just spoken to me. It is funny, but it is also sad.
I still defend the Clan as much as possible. I could be called an online ambassador. I’ve encouraged a few people that I thought would fit into the Clan to join up, but I no longer always put the Clan first.
I hardly even think of the Clan nowadays even when I’m exploring.

(Some of Doug’s Cave Clan gang photos below)

How is the ‘Cave Clan’ structured?… Is there a single leader, State based factions etc.?

I’m doing my best to be totally honest and also to not piss off too many people…
I think most people in the Clan will agree with what I’m about to say, but others will be defensive.
The Cave Clan has never had leaders as such. People have always spoken to me as if I were a leader, but I was pretty obsessed with the Clan and I loved organizing big events, so I was often in the middle of things even when I wasn’t exploring that often.
We wanted people to join so we could all share what we do. Some of the branches hardly let anyone in nowadays. It’s not hard to find a reason to keep a potential new member out of the group and parts of the Clan have more trolls that their sole reason for being in the Clan seems to be to create a negative vibe and scare people away.
Even before the scene grew to the numbers of 2018, parts of the Clan were blocking new members. Adelaide had let hardly anyone in for 6 or 7 years so when we tried to get something happening a heap of Old Schoolers came out of the woodwork and pretty much put an end to it. Every single non-Clan person had a reason not to be let in. It’s a classic example of how keeping everyone from a branch means the scene grows around you without the group’s guidance.
I love the AdClan and have a lot of respect for them, but when they were complaining about how all these explorers weren’t worthy… yeah, it wasn’t a good sign for the group.
Sydney was a free-for-all and was pretty fucked for many years. Now they have gone from one extreme to the other. They have regular elections for decision-makers and peace keepers. They are finally getting rid of some members that were generally harassing members and putting people off, however whether you stay or go is often a popularity contest.
The SydClan runs on a form of censorship where members are scared to step out of line. Their online site is sterile. It’s another sad thing in the Clan, but I guess that’s how you stop trolls on a site where trolls were the loudest users, and if your goal is to simply go underground, then it’s a huge win for the SydClan.

If someone wanted to find out more about the Cave Clan, and even potentially join… What would they need to do?

The easiest way is to go to and click on the Contact tab and follow the Membership Enquiries links. You could spend half an hour on there, but it will save you some stuffing about in the long run.
As I said, I’m trying to be honest about things rather than coming across as a representative of the Church of Clanientology, but if you can make it into the Clan then you are very likely to find like-minded explorers whether you are a casual drain explorer that likes a beer right through to the foot-dangling location hording Ninja explorer – there are great people in the group and I’d hate for you to be put off by what I’ve written about the 10% that cause 90% of the problems.
It’s just like the world outside of urbex, there are disruptive people everywhere (I am one of them, but I was always acting on behalf of other members and never because of personal issues).
I could easily write pages and pages of nice stuff about the Clan, but that’s no fun is it.

(Some Cave Clan related propaganda below)

Does the ‘Cave Clan’ have any enemies – and what happened to create the drama in the first place?

We… they… I guess it should be ‘we’… we have enemies.
I think I’ve already explained some of the issues, but mental disabilities play a part in some of our enemies.
It’s hard because Cave Clan as a group is not set up to deal with people with mental disabilities so when these issues occur, they can cause major issues within the group. Generally someone will try and help them, but sometimes they will be asked to leave the group.
One such case saw the ex-member leaving voicemail messages on a couple of member’s phones with weird or creepy threats and mentioning things to show that they had been spying on them or their house. He’d cross out our names written on drain walls and write “stabby stabby” next to members he didn’t like. He would also show up at meeting spots and just stand across the road staring.
I’m not sure why no one went to the police, but everyone has changed their phone numbers and moved house. He’s still out there and one day he is probably going to harm someone.
There’s been a few like that.
Kids often started up urbex groups that had the goal of “kicking da Cave Clan’s ass!” and becoming the number one urbex group in Australia, but I think most of them had to be home by the time the street-lights were on so they were limited to how much damage they could cause.
There have been a few disgruntled ex members that occasionally do shit stuff like report the Clannies to the cops. This has happened at least three times.

Who are some members of Cave Clan who have most impacted your personal life – please tell us who they were, how they impacted you, and what has become of them today (if known).

Oh wow. That’s a really tough one.
Many have and still impact on my Cave Clan life in that I am still proud of the fact that people will put so much effort into something that I played a huge part in forming.
Aydun and Red who have a lot to do with the SydClan website don’t have any time for me, but I’m still amazed at how much of their own time they have put into the group. There are many dozens that fall into this category. I genuinely feel something for the sacrifice they make.
I will never be able to repay the work Critt, iD, Trioxide and many others have done. I shouldn’t have mentioned anyone because now I realise all the others will be like, “Thanks for nothing Doug!”
As far as the influence Clan people have had on me outside of the Clan, this is going to sound pretty lame, but I am really into having a laugh and being a social butterfly so the people I have stayed close to are the ones that let me, even encourage me, to be my childish self. I understand that it can be hard at times being friends with a 50-year-old kid, so I appreciate that.
It really is a sliding door thing. 12 years ago I took the Married with Children path. If I hadn’t taken that path then I’m sure I’d have better answers for this question.
I think friends that can see through the bullshit are worth their weight in gold.
A few that have died have affected me in different ways.
When I first met Predator I asked if he wanted to come out for a few beers and he said, “I’d rather do flick outs on my BMX and wet old ladies than drink beer”. He was a social misfit in many ways. After a few years we had a falling out that lasted another few years. We basically sorted out our differences just before he found out that he had cancer. When he last visited me at my place in Melbourne we said goodbye at the door and I went to shake his hand and he went to do a hug. In the end we shook. He was walking a couple of kilometres to another Clan guy’s house. I offered to drive him and he said it’s a nice day for a walk. He died not too long after that (earlier than expected). I wish I had of walked to Edgar’s with him.
I received a phone call saying that Pred was nearing the end. I decided to phone him expecting his friend to answer, but a husky voiced Predator answered. I just wanted to tell him that we wouldn’t forget him and that we’d remember all the good he did. I don’t think he was in pain, but it was very hard. He kept saying loudly in a husky voice, “Thanks for the Cave Clan Doug… it changed my life… thanks for the Cave Clan”. He sounded really old and tired. I find it hard to take a compliment at the best of times, but this was really hard.
He died a few hours later.
At the funeral I found out so much about the geeky kid that had grown into an incredible person. The church was a decent size and it was overflowing. There were people from a variety of communities including rural indigenous people from a community that Predator had been part of for awhile.
We were very different, but Predator was a special person.

(An old calling card of Predator’s below)

‘Il Draino’ Questions

For those reading at home who may be unaware – please explain the who, what and why of ‘Il Draino’?

Il Draino takes its name from the Il Globo newspaper which caters to Melbourne’s Italian community. It’s a photocopied magazine commonly known as a zine.
The first 90 issues were pretty much the Cave Clan newsletter, however, as I have less to do with the core Cave Clan nowadays, the last 5 issues have been put together more as a gossip mag than a newsletter.
2019 is the 30th anniversary of Il Draino and I would love to get to the 100th issue by then, but it’s extremely unlikely (look at how long it has taken me to submit these responses to you).
I pretty much put Il Draino together, but there are generally other contributors from the Cave Clan (more so in the earlier issues).

Describe the usual process of producing ‘Il Draino’? – Dot point all o.k!

I generally ask for submissions a month before printing.
I get maybe a dozen people offer to submit – in the end I’m lucky to get two that actually follow through.
I try and free up a whole night (I’m definitely a night owl). Get drunk (or a least tipsy) and type it all out between 10pm and 6am.
I then spend a week photocopying, folding, stapling and mailing out the mags.
I really enjoy making and getting Il Draino out, but I just find that with very little spare time getting started is the major hurdle.
I only proof-read it once I have a finished copy in my hand so Il Draino is very well known for sometimes sounding as if it was written by someone that has English as a second or third language.

(Some photos of Il Draino below)

Will we ever be blessed with a collected edition / coffee table book of all the published editions of ‘Il Draino’?

A bunch of very helpful cool nice excellent (etc) Cave Clan members retyped a lot of the issues and I pretty much have onwards from issue 68 on my computer.
I am planning on releasing back issues in batches of ten (#1 to #10 first, then 11 to 20 and so on), however it’s a huge task and I really need to get a few other things out of the way first.

Who did the art for ‘Il Draino’ – such as the ongoing comic-strips and the logo?

Clint Q’ray did the Il Draino banner and a few strips along the way. He’s a great guy and we’ve stayed friends for almost 30 years now. I always enjoy chatting with Clint.
Favero passed away from cancer while he was doing the Middle-aged Radioactive Blackbelt Alf strip (he did tell me he’d finished another strip just before he died, but we never found it).
He also came up with a series of Cave Clan stickers including the now infamous Coca Cola dynamic ribbon design. His 3-in-a-drain design was used on stickers and clothing.
Favero was another really interesting person that I feel very privileged to have ever met. I have never met anyone like him since.

(An ongoing comic with art by Favero whch was featured in ‘Il Draino’ below)

Is ‘Il Draino’ still a going concern at all – and if so in what capacity?

I’m hoping to start one very soon which would make the most recent 2 or 3 issues an annual.
I would love to do a couple a year, but it’s hard to prioritize something like Il Draino when I have family, friends, work and exploring to fit in.
If… when I get to #100 Il Draino can be put to rest, but maybe I’d make something else for the general urbex community.

(Some photos of drain art by Favero below)

If a fellow explorer wanted to contribute to ‘Il Draino’ – how can they submit art, photos or articles / stories?

Email me: which points to
I try and aim it at the light-hearted side of exploring, however there have been a few deaths in the Clan and urbex scene since the last issue so yeah, it’s not always for shits and giggles (mostly though).

Odds n Ends

What role did toys play in your childhood?

Hmmm, not much really.
I was off riding along local creeks and rivers as soon as I could.
I had a Six Million Dollar Man action figure that could lift an engine up and he had a peep hole in the back of his head that you could look though to see his bionic vision.
I was into comics. I loved 2000AD, Tin Tin. Asterix & Groo the Wanderer.
I’m more into toys now… only because of my children of course.

Who was your 1st crush and why?

I’m not sure if she was my first, or even a legitimate crush, but Miss Franklin at Northcote Tech.
Why? How can I say this without sounding like a deviate… well she used to wear a “Smile” Coca Cola Tshirt, and boy was that smile across the front of her shirt stretched! She was pretty cool too.
Her and the art teacher used to smoke pot at the pub I sold newspapers in. They would buy a copy of every paper and magazine I had and give me a tip so I’d keep hush.

Does sex change everything?

As far as Cave Clan went, I tried my best not to get romantically entangled with fellow members.
I did pretty well at keeping the two separate which wasn’t that hard as I wasn’t getting my door kicked in by suitors. I had a couple of drunken flings and a couple of serious relationships over the first 20 years, but I think I did really well as I always tended to get quite passionate about people that put their own time and effort into the Cave Clan, so putting the breaks on wasn’t always easy.
Having sex generally leads to a change… a changing of bed sheets.

Please describe what you think the Australian psyche / zeitgeist is today?

I don’t think I can answer this without sounding like an out-of-touch old bastard…
I was around before social media so I’ve watched the world go from daggy big hair dos to having a platform where EVERYONE can have their say even when their say is more than likely not worth hearing (I mean who really gives a shit if Cadbury puts Happy Easter on their eggs or not).
Sadly I think we are losing the Australian psyche. We are continuously becoming more American. There seems to be a thing nowadays where there is a lot less apathy towards anyone that is slightly different.
We seem to like finding the worst in a people and over exaggerate those negatives, but conveniently ignore our own.
I was racist, homophobic and sexist. I played football and drank beer, but I was lucky to get to an age and realize I was being a bit of a dick (even though I was always just “joking”).
Maybe losing some of what we were in recent decades is a good thing.
Having said that, there are a lot of good intelligent people out there, but we just seem more divided than we have been for a very long time.

Which cartoon character, would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?

Jessica Rabbit.
Because I’m a walking cliché from the 80’s? I don’t know.
I think I’d turn for a sex-toy version of Ed Grimley.

(Art by Dougo of his Ed Grimley cartoon sex toy)

Who would win in a fight and why: A newly minted draining kid Vs. a gang of drain dwelling eels swooshing about in knee deep water – directly in front of the aforementioned kid?

Firstly you’d have to find a draining kid that would enter a drain that was knee deep (I’m always getting asked, “Is there another way in where I don’t have to get my feet wet?”).
Freshwater eels use their sliminess as a weapon whereas sea eels just use their size to scare the fuck out of you, so I would say Drain Kid V Fresh Water Eels = 2 nuggets in his pants. Sea Eel V Drain Kid = full pants time.
I hope that answers your question.

(Art by Dougo below showing the battle in all its glory!)

What are the top 3 items you own?

I don’t really think I can answer this.
I don’t have many favourite things.
I’d say my house for the security it gives my family.
Cars… meh! Nick nacks… not really.
I haven’t found another Deathray Eyes the Drain Dog yet.
I think I sold anything of value on eBay.
I’m about to have a pizza… that could be one.

(Some photos below of Dougo’s beloved yet sadly departed dog – Deathray Eyes the Drain Dog)

Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?

I’ve seen drugs bring out artistic positives in people and that’s what people who use drugs seem to like bringing up, but there is also the shit side that ruins the lives of users, their family and close friends. This side of drugs has been experienced in recent years which resulted in two deaths.
I do not have a problem with people using drugs, plenty of my friends have, but I don’t really like to see them forced on people.
I just haven’t had any luck with my few attempts. I’ve always had a negative experience and now have no interest.
I definitely don’t think drugs are cool.
I guess alcohol is my drug, but I hardly ever drink nowadays. I’m old, soft and boring.

Please describe your latest dream in detail…

I had a good one a few weeks ago that was to do with urban exploration! I actually woke up twice during it and went back into it both times! That NEVER happens especially with the dreams I’d have as a teenage boy… no matter how hard I tried.
I even explained to my wife how vivid the dream was (thanks to some medication I was on at the time for a bad knee).
I just asked her now to remind me what the dream was and she has no recollection so I’m beginning to wonder if the whole thing was just a dream.

Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?

I’m not really fussed about being remembered for anything.
Up until a couple of years ago I guess I would have liked to be remembered as a person who played a large part in forming the Cave Clan and keeping it going through the good and bad times, but that is no longer the case.
I would like to be remembered by the people that actually knew me as someone who liked to socialize and have a laugh.
I hope my daughters remember me as being a good caring and loving father.

If people wanted to collaborate and / or work with you – how should they get in touch?

A time machine would probably be the best thing.
Ironfistdoug on Instagram, YouTube & Vimeo or just email me.

The Future

Any collaborations on the horizon?

I’ve written a heap of notes for a book about the Clan. Not a coffee-table book, but more a book of funny and interesting stories that have occurred during the first few decades, but that will probably be more based on the Melbourne Clan and their travels. I’ve decided to use those notes to do a Video Blog.
Basically I’ve got a dozen 5-minute episodes planned with every second one being a story about Clan politics that I pretty much want to explain in my own words and then every other episode will be about cool stuff I’ve done like finding cool locations and meeting some pretty cool and fucked up people.

Any major projects you want to hype?

I’m hoping to get the fourth edition of the Victorian Drain Guide done very soon.
It’s meant to be for Cave Clan members only, but as there are more detailed locations lists already out there I may offer a few copies to non-Clan people that I trust.
iD and I are also planning on doing a third series of Extreme Hardcore Urbex. It’s been a year since the last Il Draino so hopefully I’ll get #96 out by then.
Grow older gracefully.

(Some Cave Clan art by Q-Ray below)